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Capture-based Aquaculture

by the Fish Site Editor
10 December 2008, at 12:00am

Global production from aquaculture has grown substantially, contributing increasingly significant quantities to the worlds supply of fish for human consumption, says a report from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. This increasing trend is projected to continue in forthcoming decades.

It is envisaged that the sector will contribute more effectively to food security, poverty reduction and economic development by producing – with minimum impact on the environment and maximum benefit to society – 83 million tonnes of aquatic food by 2030; an increase of 37.5 million tonnes above the 2004 level.

Aquaculture is a diverse sector using many strategies for fish production. The harvesting of wild individuals, either as broodstock whose eggs will hatch and develop under culture in ponds or cages, or as early life-history stages for on-growing under confined and controlled conditions is one of these strategies. This system of aquaculture production has been termed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) as capture-based aquaculture (CBA) and is practiced worldwide on a variety of marine and freshwater species, with important environmental, social and economic implications.

Capture-based aquaculture has certain advantages and disadvantages compared to aquaculture which controls the full breeding cycle of farmed species. The system does not rely on controlling the reproduction and breeding of farmed species. Thus, species of high market value or those that are readily available naturally can be farmed without the necessity to develop hatcheries or breeding programmes. The lack of domestication potential for wild-caught species is, however, a prime disadvantage as genetic improvement is not possible even in the long term.

This type of aquaculture is practiced on high value marine finfish species such as tuna which require high protein diets and sturdy culture facilities. However, it is also used on low-value fish species that are sometimes farmed in small ponds or inexpensive farming systems with minimum inputs. The former provides economic opportunity, but requires substantial infrastructure and investment, whereas the latter provides food security and an additional income source to rural communities. All forms of CBA need to be evaluated in light of economic viability, the wise use of natural resources and the environmental impact as a whole.

The extent and scale of CBA practices are difficult to quantify, however it is estimated that they comprise about 20 percent of marine aquaculture production, with an annual market value of US$1.7 billion. The culture of many freshwater species also relies partly or fully on fry caught from the wild because the supply from hatcheries is not adequate to meet the demand, or because the quality of hatchery-produced seed is perceived by farmers to be inferior to wild-caught seed. The main concern related to CBA is whether the seed fishery has a negative impact on wild stocks of the targeted species as well as non-targeted species. Although there is generally little data on this issue, some countries have tried to ban or somewhat restrict such fisheries.

There are environmental concerns which need to be addressed regarding the harvesting of wild resources for CBA. Many fishery management regulations have minimum size limits for harvested species, and often there are restrictions on the harvest of spawning adults. The targeted individuals in wild-caught farming are early life history stages and adults ready to spawn which may not be adequately covered by existing legislation. The impacts on natural populations that are “targeted” for this type of aquaculture, and impacts on the associated non-targeted species and the surrounding ecosystem, need to be addressed to determine the sustainability of CBA.

These sustainability issues in aquaculture development have been recognized by many scientists, government experts, aquaculture producers and suppliers, traders of aquaculture products, and social and environmental advocacy or stakeholder groups. Numerous national as well as international and intergovernmental meetings have concluded that there is a significant need to address and resolve those issues which constrain the sustainable development of aquaculture at the local, national, regional and global levels.

FAO and the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) have repeatedly discussed aquaculture and the need for international collaboration for the promotion of its sustainable development, and its potential contribution to development in many rural areas. The 1999 FAO Ministerial Meeting as well as the first and second Sessions of the COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture also reiterated strongly the need for enhanced efforts by the international aquaculture community to work towards more sustainable and responsible aquaculture production practices.

The project “Towards sustainable aquaculture – selected issues and guidelines” implemented by the FAO and funded by the Government of Japan, through a Trust Fund arrangement, has provided the means to address selected key issues of sustainability in global aquaculture practices and development. With due recognition to the recommendations of the FAO Committee on Fisheries/Sub-Committee on Aquaculture during its first two sessions, the thematic area on the “use of wild fish and fishery resources for aquaculture production” has been identified as a priority for targeted action.

Furthermore, the project has focused on collating and synthesizing available information on the aforementioned and other thematic areas and based on the information analysed provided possible management regimes and options for targeted response measures in relation to the specific issue of concern including constraints and problems, and with due consideration of feasibility and affordability of possible implementation of identified measures. The outputs generated by the project will assist FAO Member countries in the promotion and implementation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF).

The specific objective of the previously mentioned project sub-component is to contribute to improved and effective fish farming and conservation of natural aquatic populations at the global level, with minimum disruption to responsible fisheries and livelihoods through the successful implementation of ecosystem approaches in fisheries. In order to achieve such an objective the FAO organized an international workshop in Hanoi, Viet Nam, in October 2007, to initiate the production of a set of technical guidelines on the responsible use of wild fish and fisheries resources for aquaculture production (see Annexes for workshop agenda, list of participants, expert profiles and group photograph). These technical guidelines, once available, aim at assisting policymakers in developing policies and regulations that take account of both the use and conservation of aquatic resources.

In preparation of the Hanoi workshop, two main thematic reviews were prepared covering environmental and biodiversity and socio-economic issues related to CBA along with eleven species specific review papers that covered both marine and freshwater examples from around the world and the ecological, socio-economic and livelihood impacts associated with CBA. The commercial species and related geographical coverage included: mullet (Egypt); bluefin tuna (Europe); European eel (France/Europe); cod (Norway); mud crab (Asia-Pacific); grouper (Southeast Asia); yellowtail (Japan); snakehead and pangasiid catfish (Mekong region); Indian major carps (Bangladesh); Clarias catfish (Cameroon); and oyster (Republic of Korea). The two thematic reviews and species papers are included in this FAO Fisheries Technical Paper.

Further Reading

- You can view the full report by clicking here.

December 2008

the Fish Site Editor